Courtesy of Assemblyman Robert Rivas’ Office:
Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) led his first hearing as Chair of the Assembly Agricultural Committee to discuss the devastating impacts of wildfires on agriculture in California. The hearing included three panels of experts addressing the effects on agricultural workers, farms, and farmlands, the economic impacts on the industry, and agriculture-based wildfire mitigation opportunities. These experts proposed a variety of solutions to help mitigate and avoid such impacts in future years—solutions the Committee will consider heading into the new legislative session.
“I look forward to leading this Committee and working to ensure that California agriculture continues to be the most innovative, nourishing, and productive on the planet,” Asm. Rivas said. “This year, 2020, has been the largest, most destructive wildfire season recorded in California history. We all saw it – from the darkened red skies to the charred hillsides. We all struggled throughout the summer, with severely unhealthy air that seemed to linger for months on end. The impact to agriculture was profound.”
During the hearing, Asm. Rivas stated that wildfires and the associated ash led to the destruction of thousands of acres of productive agricultural land and millions of dollars worth of produce and grapes.
“It is clear that wildfires are not going away. And we must be better prepared for when they return. It’s also clear that Agriculture must be a leader in this discussion. Agriculture must be part of the solution in mitigating the impacts of wildfires.”
To view the committee hearing in its entirety, click here.
- California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson discussed how the tremendous smoke and ash from this year’s wildfires further exacerbated the lack of availability for PPE, leaving farmers unable to source sufficient N95 masks for their employees.
- Cole Mazariegos-Anastassiou with Brisa de Ano Farm explained that the industry needs to be more involved in the solution: “[W]e as farmers and ranchers have a lot of the tools, equipment, knowledge, and skills to address these fires as they are occurring, before they are occurring, and also in the preparation process, in terms of being able to think about things like creating fire breaks around areas, which is something that could be legislated—and also having the funds to do that.”
- Mazariegos-Anastassiou of Brisa de Ano Farm and Kara Heckert of the American Farmland Trust also discussed the use of wildfire mitigation techniques that support climate change solutions, such as reducing carbon emissions.
- Assemblymember Devon Mathis (R-Visalia), who serves as the Vice-Chair of the Committee, and several panelists discussed the idea of a possible certification for commercial ranchers to be able to safely return to retrieve their livestock during a wildfire.
- “We will take what we learned this afternoon and we will continue to reach out to various stakeholders to craft solutions that will bring people together and solve problems,” Asm. Rivas said.
Experts Who Provided Testimony for the Informational Hearing:
Panel 1: Overview of the Impact of Wildfires on California Agriculture
- Chief Nick Schuler, Acting Deputy Director for Communications, CalFire
- Professor Dan Sumner, University of California – Davis
- Kevin Masuhara, Deputy Secretary Administration and Finance, California Department of Food and Agriculture
Panel 2: Examples of Specific Wildfire Impacts on Farms, Farmland, and Farmworkers
- Jamie Johansson, President, California Farm Bureau
- Eddie Campos, No Boundaries Farm
- Dr. Dave Daley, Rancher, California Cattlemen Association
- Karissa Kruse, President, Sonoma County Winegrowers
- Cole Mazariegos-Anastassiou, Brisa de Ano Farm
- Arnulfo Solorio, Director, Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation
Panel 3: Agricultural-based Wildfire Mitigation
- Dan Macon, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources & California Woolgrowers
- Kara Heckert, American Farmland Trust